The project’s participants understood that in order to develop a superior facility, there was a need to first develop working relationships based on trust and open lines of communication. The goal was the same for everyone: to get the job done well, on time, and under budget. The original, or “core,” team of five representatives comprised the original board of directors: UC San Diego (the owner), RTKL (the architect), DPR (the construction firm), KPFF (the structural engineer), and exp, formerly X-nth (MEP engineer).
Mission statements emphasized core values such as integrity, openness, enjoyment, progressiveness, and determination. A special emphasis was placed upon trust and open lines of communication, and while some board members were initially skeptical about joining such a team, strong relationships developed throughout the first year.
Monthly face-to-face, half-day meetings began. Cell phones were turned off. Required reading was doled out. Relationships were built and eventually trust took shape. Even as new members joined and others filtered out, everyone who participated in the project quickly bought into the core values and continued moving forward as a collective unit. The goal was to make the team feel like a small corporation, but by the time the entire seven-year process was completed, it felt more like members of a family who had learned to balance their lives in order to make the project better.
Together, they formed a high-performance team—later dubbed an inspired project delivery team—that, through the creation of founding principles and team-building sessions, took collaboration to an entirely new level. Along the way, the team learned to use the trust and collaboration they had attained to tackle major challenges.
Changing scope midstream
In 2005, a year after the project budget was established, two major problems surfaced:
- The demand for cardiovascular services at the existing Thornton Hospital increased significantly, so much, in fact, that the new project, as originally envisioned, would not meet current needs, much less allow for growth.
- An unprecedented 30% cost escalation in the California construction industry became a seemingly insurmountable problem.
With the project at a standstill, the team’s commitment to “never settle” was put to the test.
RTKL helped UCSD prioritize capital and services, and examine all possible ways programs could be arrayed to generate needed revenue. With the board of directors’ help, RTKL prepared and presented to the UCSD Board of Regents the valid business reasons for these decisions and the related financial needs. As a result, the project stayed alive by receiving two phases of additional funds, and it experienced only a minor slip from the original schedule.
As in any development of this size and scope, additional obstacles inevitably emerged and tested the group’s resolve. Six months into construction with onsite work well underway, hospital leaders came to the team with a sudden, drastic change of plans: The fourth floor of the structure—originally designed to host offices—was now going to be repurposed for patients.